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Foodservice Branding Cheat Sheet: 5 Steps to Stay Both Consistent and Exciting

foodservice branding cheat sheet

When people hear your brand name, what do they think of?

Strong foodservice branding looks like finding the right place to stand between two polar opposites.

On the one hand, customers are drawn to products and brands they perceive as having a long history of consistent quality. It’s less risky, for example, to buy food or kitchen equipment from a company that has made the same product for years, whose brand name makes you think of a particular product the way “Butterball” makes you hungry for Thanksgiving turkey.

On the other hand, foodservice branding can’t afford to become monotone. People are also drawn to what’s new, exciting and potentially better than the products/services they’re used to. A new chicken sandwich that went viral was all it took for Popeyes to draw crowds with lines out the door and to see its number of Twitter followers skyrocket in a “Twitter feud” with Chick-fil-A.

Consistent and reliable — or innovative and exciting? How do you decide which direction to take your brand image or whether the most successful strategy is somewhere in between? This foodservice branding cheat sheet can help you get started.

Step 1: Define your brand clearly, for your customers and yourself.

Let’s start by going back to your roots. Where did your company start out? What inspired the founder(s) to start your business, and how has that carried over into what you do today?

If you don’t have a clear idea what your brand is all about, it’s unlikely your customers will either. Whether you want to redefine your brand or just identify the core of what’s already there, branding exercises like strategic customer surveys and employee questionnaires can help you figure out what your brand image is now and what you want it to ultimately become.

Step 2: Direct your marketing to match your brand definition.

Consistency is the key to building trust. Customers want to know what they can expect from you, and if something you do feels off-brand, they may wonder (even if it’s subconsciously) whether you truly put your money where your mouth is.

A recent story in AdAge marketing magazine — which might be easily mistaken as a story from The Onion — provided a humorous take on a “brand pivot” by Marie Kondo. Kondo became a household name when “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” brought her strategies for minimalism to Netflix (immortalized in countless “this one does not spark joy” memes). But when she recently opened an online store for people to buy new products with her brand name, perplexed and sometimes witty reactions from Twitter users indicated the designer KonMari products may not entirely fit the original KonMari brand.

Don’t make this mistake. Everything you do and everything that the public sees should accurately reflect your branding.

Step 3: Describe your audience and market directly to them.

We know not all people think the same way, and what motivates one person may have no interest for another, depending on their individual personalities, values and circumstances. But when it comes to marketing, you have to think practically. A c-store that sells prepared foods won’t be in the market for a bakery oven, and if that’s what you’re selling, you need to know what business and restaurants are on your prospect list.

Buyer personas are a handy marketing tool even more relevant in today’s digital marketing landscape. Creating a persona involves developing an imaginary person who has the characteristics of an average person in one of your target markets, specifically the person you’re trying to sell your product/service to.

With today’s options for targeted digital marketing, you can use personas to get better return on investment (ROI) on campaigns. Based on the buyer persona you’d like to reach, you can set parameters in a campaign to target the people who match specific industries, regions and job titles, to name just a few options. By limiting ad reach to the most relevant audiences, you can decrease the cost per acquisition (CPA) compared to mass marketing while multiplying your overall conversion rate.

Step 4: Differentiate your brand from the noise.

With social media, online news articles, and streaming TV — all available in desktop or smartphone app versions — we’re being marketed to almost constantly. Often we begin to tune it all out, except when something unexpected or emotionally compelling catches our attention. With endless choices for every product from toothpaste to toaster ovens, it’s the brands that break through the commotion that have the best chance to win our buy-in.

Buzzwords like “unique” and “innovative” are easy to toss around, but the message that will get your prospective customers’ attention is directly tied to the previous point: knowing your audience and marketing to them specifically. What do your customers and prospects value, and what will get them to stop and take notice of your brand in a positive way?

The staple holiday brand name mentioned earlier, Butterball, found an attention-getting way to connect with customers and prospects as early as 1981, when they started the Turkey Talk-Line for desperate home cooks to call in and get expert advice for Thanksgiving turkey dinner emergencies. What started as a marketing campaign showed impressive staying power, surviving 38 years with continued popularity even into the internet age.

Step 5: Deliver what you promise.

Along the lines of consistency, the last way to solidify your foodservice branding is by making sure your product or service itself matches your brand values. If you call your brand reliable, customers will expect your products to do the job consistently. If you value quality, your tech support and customer service should show the same careful attention to detail. If you’re an innovator, your e-commerce site should communicate that with fresh, creative messaging and appearance.

Once you’ve defined your brand and begun marketing it to connect with your audience, the best way to stand out from the crowd is to craft an overall brand experience, from digital ad to purchased product, that gives your customer exactly what they need, and even more. You can turn prospects into customers with a well-placed ad or quality content marketing. But to keep those customers loyal to your brand so they come back for more, exceeding expectations on every level is the foundation of effective marketing strategy.

Wondering what exemplary foodservice branding looks like in social media interactions? Check out this article on how Wendy’s is keeping social media fresh (never frozen).

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